Myth-Stakes of Partner Building 103

Myth-Stake of Partner Building 103:  Channel partners won’t invest in a relationship, or even invest in their own performance as a partner, if they don’t have something in which they can take ownership.

In this series of PLM Alliance Alchemy posts we are examining the more common myths and mistakes in partner, alliance, and channel building within the many technology market segments of PLM.  I call these “myth-stakes” because they are mistakes based on often widely held myths of partner-making.

In last month’s Myth-Stake 102 we referenced that channel partners, once aligned in a shared vision and strategy for pursuing a market opportunity, should not be expected to invest to fill in the missing holes in each other’s business model, strategy plan, or go-to-market execution. They will invest only in their own business, and only when it is to their own advantage for their own self-interest.

The most direct path to creating an empowering self-interest for partners is not that surprising: give them ownership in something in which they can invest! After all, why would anyone invest in something they cannot claim a long-term ownership stake in? A sense of ownership will motivate investment for the partner’s reasons which are infinitely more sustainable than your own.

Unfortunately, I often meet ISV’s that are so overly protective of everything they touch that they are reluctant to give their partners an opportunity to own something of long-term value. This is true not only of small ISV’s that may own very little themselves, but also large ISV’s who think they already own everything that could possibly be important.

In my experience, ownership can be derived from any one of a number of partnership terms. Examples include ownership of a geographic region, sales territory, specific industry, customers, add-on solutions, training programs, events, thought leadership, and even newly created intellectual property from consulting with a customer. And there is nothing wrong with encouraging ownership opportunities that can always be dialed back if goals are not achieved.

A question I often hear is why give away an ownership opportunity of something that you may already have or hope to create some day. My usual response is to take an ISV through a tour of all the components of a traditional “ISV-push” channel sales enablement program. (The myths embedded in many of these sales enablements, which have turned them into underperforming entitlements, will be covered in a future post.) They then begin to appreciate all that they must invest in to motivate partners who are reactive because they have no investment reasons to be proactive. In the long run it is often much less expensive to bestow a level of ownership that creates “partner-pull” magic.

A final cautionary note that partners who don’t have an ownership stake, and thus who won’t invest at levels beyond those that produce a hollow impression, can still appear to be successful in the short-term. However, upon deeper inspection it becomes obvious that their success is fleeting, derived from taking the low hanging fruit off the sales tree that did not require much investment, talent or work, but only timing and luck to be in the path of the falling fruit. Some partners will argue that is still a valid role of the channel, but the lack of any value-added is a topic for a future Myth-Stake.

Partner & Alliance Building Myth-stake 103:  For partners to be successful and sustainable they must have reasons and opportunities to invest.  To invest with confidence and enthusiasm they require a sense of ownership. The best-in-class ISV’s, large and small, understand this and create opportunities for their partners to earn a level of ownership which will fuel a mutually rewarding long-term relationship.

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